Pennsylvania 13th District
Montgomery County is the proximate hinterland of Philadelphia: rolling hills cut on one side by the Schuylkill River and at intervals by the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroad lines radiating outward from Center City. Older suburbs, both rich and modest, grew up around rail stations, with comfortable houses within walking distance for commuters. Further out are 18th and 19th century villages, once surrounded by farm fields, now encroached by subdivisions where people depend on cars, not rail lines, to get to work. Montgomery County has its shopping malls and office parks, but not many freeways. Most of the traffic here is along roads on the area’s diagonal grid or along the old pikes laid out when Pennsylvania was a colony. It is the most populous and second most affluent county, behind Chester, in suburban Philadelphia, with solid job growth prospects.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Quite a different place, though adjacent to southern Montgomery County, is Northeast Philadelphia. This is relatively new urban territory, with more than half its houses built after 1950. When the alley-wide streets of North and South Philadelphia and the river wards were already teeming with people, and the Main Line suburbs were well-settled, the workers of Philadelphia’s docks, factories and offices were just starting to fill up vacant land here. They settled in neighborhoods like Bustleton, Somerton and Torresdale. Many of Philadelphia’s Hispanics live in the industrial river wards along the Delaware River, but the other wards of Northeast Philadelphia are still mostly white and ethnic. Outside investors and Hasidic Jews from New York looking for more space and opportunity have bid up residential prices and have revived a vibrant Jewish community.
The 13th Congressional District of Pennsylvania includes much of southeastern and central Montgomery County and most of Northeast Philadelphia. From 2000 to 2007, the district’s population increased 2%. Historically, Montgomery was quintessentially Republican, with a style of politics set for years by Ivy-educated Republican men. But the county, like other affluent suburbs in the Boston-Washington corridor, swung toward the Democratic Party in national politics in the 1990s, with abortion rights and other cultural issues usually trumping economic interests. Montgomery voted by large margins for Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the 1980s, but has voted strongly for Democratic presidential candidates since then. Northeast Philadelphia has a different political heritage. Its feisty Republican organization has won some elections and shown facility in making deals to get its share of patronage. Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign made a big advertising and organizational drive in this area in 2008, but Democrat Barack Obama won 60% of the vote in Northeast Philly and 57% in Montgomery County, for an overall 59%-41% win in the district.